Wednesday, December 12, 2012

401V: Isolation and solitude are not the same thing

Following on the theme of what goes into a happy life, two more TED lectures. First, love and the brain, according to Helen Fisher:

(See questions following the second lecture.)

Meanwhile, Sherry Turkle asks us to consider what our disembodied communication patterns (SMS, Twitter, social networks, even social robots) are doing to our souls. Is it time to overcome our fear of unedited self-disclosure in favor of actual human contact and healthy solitude?

Questions about these presentations
Sherry Turkle

  1. What is the central paradox illustrated by Sherry Turkle's story of the SMS she just received from her daughter? 
  2. She says, "People talk to me about the important new skill of making eye contact while you're texting." Why might this ability seem useful? Is it truly useful? 
  3. She goes on to say, "I think we're setting ourselves up for trouble"--in fact two kinds of trouble. What are they? 
  4. What is the Goldilocks effect? (Do you know the story of Goldilocks and the three bears?) 
  5. What was Stephen Colbert's profound question, and how did Turkle answer?
  6.  Turkle witnessed a woman being comforted by a robot in the shape of a seal, and, in her words, "felt myself at the cold, hard center of a perfect storm. We expect more from ... and less from .... And I ask myself, "Why have things come to this?" More from what? Less from what? How does she explain this? 
  7. What are the "three gratifying fantasies"? 
  8. What is the difference between isolation and solitude? 
  9. What attitude to life is symbolized by the phrase "calling in the cavalry"? 
  10. Is the situation Sherry Turkle describes limited to the West or the USA? Is this phenomenon also seen in Russia? 
  11. Why is Turkle optimistic?

Helen Fisher

  1. What three groups of people have these scientists examined using an MRI brain scanner?
  2. Anthropologists have found what phenomenon in every society?
  3. Almost 95 percent of both men and women gave the same answer—yes—to two different questions. What were the questions?
  4. What did the poet Emily Dickinson say about hell?
  5. The study of people in love found activity in the VTA, “part of the brain's reward system.” What functions are associated with this part of the brain?
  6. Among the people who have been “dumped,” these scientists found brain activity in the same region as the people who were in love. Why does Fisher say, “What a bad deal”?
  7. “Dumped” lovers also have activity in two other brain regions. What functions are those two brain regions responsible for?
  8. In terms of human reproduction, how does romantic love differ from the so-called sex drive?
  9. Fisher tells a story about a girlfriend to illustrate her point about “relapse.” What was the story?
  10. Has the spirit of scientific experimentation spoiled the concept of love for Fisher? How does she illustrate her answer to this question?
  11. What has this scientific team found out about people who are still in love after many years?
  12. What are some of the factors that will determine whether we will love this person and not that person? Is it possible to identify all the factors involved?
  13. In what different ways do men and women express intimacy and friendship?

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